Longyearbyen isn’t very big, but there are two museums in town. This is the older but smaller of the two. It focuses on efforts to reach the north pole with various types of aviation, some successful and some not.
You’ll sometimes see the North Pole Expedition Museum referred to by its original name, the Spitsbergen Airship Museum. (You can also see it referred to formally in a plural form as the North Pole Expeditions Museum).
It’s located in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen. It was originally founded in 2008 in the space previously used by Longyearbyen’s pig farm, a space it originally shared with the Svalbard Museum. In 2012 it was moved to its current home.
The key exhibits focus on three airship expeditions of the early 20th century to try to reach the North Pole.
- Wellman Expeditions. American journalist Walter Wellman launched several attempts at reaching the North Pole by airship, in 1906, 1907, and 1909. None was successful.
- Norge Expedition. The expedition with the airship Norge carried out the first verified overflight of the North Pole in 1926 (there were a few earlier claims by other expeditions, but they have been disputed). It was a multinational effort by Italian, Norwegian, and American contributors. Its most famous participant was Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen who had earlier led the first successful expedition to the South Pole.
- Italia Expedition. Led by Italian Umberto Nobile in the airship Italia, this 1928 expedition resulted in a crash and the loss of several crew.
The museum is surprisingly light on original artifacts from these expeditions–there’s not a lot of room, after all. Most of the exhibits consist of historic films, photos, maps, newspapers, postcards, drawings, and clothes. For obvious reasons, there are only a few small fragments of the airships’ skins.
Photos of the North Pole Expedition Museum
What to Know Before You Go
The North Pole Expedition Museum is in a black building across the street from the newer and larger Svalbard Museum. If you’re walking down the town’s main street, keep going down the hill toward the waterfront–it’s around the other side of the Svalbard Museum.
It’s small and doesn’t take long to visit.
As with some other public spaces in Longyearbyen, you’ll be asked to either remove your shoes (there are some free lockers at the main entrance) or put on blue shoe covers that are provided next to the front door.
About the North Pole Expedition Museum
- The North Pole Expedition Museum is located in Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.
- It is also known as the “Polar Museum” or “Polarmuseet” in Norwegian.
- The museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich history of North Pole exploration and Arctic expeditions.
- It was founded in 2012 by the Svalbard Museum in cooperation with local authorities and stakeholders.
- The museum features an impressive collection of artifacts, photographs, and multimedia exhibits from various Arctic expeditions.
- Items on display include expedition equipment, clothing, tools, and navigational instruments used by famous explorers such as Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, and Robert Peary.
- One of the highlights of the museum is the extensive collection of polar maps and charts, showcasing the evolution of Arctic exploration.
- The museum also offers educational programs and guided tours, providing visitors with a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and achievements of Arctic exploration.
- The North Pole Expedition Museum is open year-round, with adjusted opening hours during the winter months due to the polar night.